Piedmont Triad, North Carolina
Public DomainGreensboro-Winston-Salem-High_Point_CSA - Credit: Nyttend

The Piedmont region is located in the central part of North Carolina.  It is characterized by hills and slopes at the foot of the mountain region of North Carolina.  Some people refer to the Piedmont as a plateau because the region is the remains of past mountain chains that were eroded  over the years. 

Picking Cotton takes place in the Piedmont, specifically the Triad, which is an area whose main cities are High point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  Burlington is another main city, but it’s not as large as the other three.  The Triad is known for its textiles, tobacco and furniture.  The climate of the Triad is humid subtropical, meaning that the area experiences hot, humid summers and cool, mild winters. 


Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWinston-Salem - Credit: Barney Barnes

Burlington, North Carolina

Elon University
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeElon University - Credit: MPD01605, Flickr

Burlington is the home of Elon University and the setting of the vast majority of Picking Cotton.  Located in Alamance County, Burlington covers just 21.3 square miles.  However, it is the largest city in the county.  According to the 1990 census, the racial makeup of the city is slightly less than one African American person to every three Caucasian people.  In Picking Cotton Ronald Cotton, a black male, was accused in 1984 of raping Jennifer Thompson, a white female.  Burlington is the home of LabCorp, which was the corporation that tested Ronald Cotton’s DNA and exonerated him.  LabCorp is actually where most of Alamance County is employed.

Burlington Demographics


Written by: Rebekah Currie & Kelsey Weiss, student authors

High Point, North Carolina
Largest Drawers
Public DomainLargest Drawers - Credit: Cmalaspina

High Point is known as the “Furniture Capital of the World” because of the quality and amount of furniture produced.  It is also one of the highest cities in North Carolina and is the only city that extends into four counties.

Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro Collage
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGreensboro Collage - Credit: Greengrass090

Greensboro is rich in history and goes back to the early 1800s. The original spelling was Greensborough and it was changed in 1895.  Starting out, Greensboro was a small town and it has now grown into a thriving metropolis.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Wachovia Center Skyscraper
Public DomainWachovia Center Skyscraper - Credit: Damonwnc

Winston-Salem is known for its tobacco and cigarette production.  The city was formed from the two smaller towns of Winston and Salem. 

Winston was founded in 1849 and named after a Revolutionary War hero.  Salem was founded in 1753.  The name comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, meaning peace.  The two towns were joined by the post office in 1889, and were officially joined with a hyphen in 1913. 

Many business ventures were started in Winston-Salem, including Wachovia bank.

Graham, North Carolina
Alamance County Courthouse
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAlamance County Courthouse - Credit: 5minutes

The Alamance County Courthouse was constructed in 1849 in the town of Graham just outside of Burlington.  It was there in early 1985 that Ronald Cotton found himself facing a guilty verdict. 

Eleven years later, he would pass that building on his way to be exonerated at the new district courthouse.